In response to the recent media about Teach For America

There’s been a recent surge in media surrounding Teach For America. To start off with a sense of total transparency, I was a 2007 corps member with the program in Eastern North Carolina where I taught 2nd grade in Rocky Mount; since 2009, I’ve worked on staff with Teach For America in Eastern North Carolina and for the past two years, in South Carolina.

I’ve read much of the recent media and have followed all sorts of opinions on the program since I joined the ranks of Teach For America initially in 2007. I’ve agreed with some opinions, disagreed with others, have felt challenged at times, and affirmed at others.

I’m writing today because, despite all of the frenzy of media currently surrounding the program, I believe the people of Teach For America truly want what’s best for kids and for families that we serve, partner with, and seek kinship with. And I use the word ‘people’ instead of ‘program’ purposefully. Many of the articles and opinions I’ve read portray Teach For America as a giant machine or program or thing – an entity of “other.” But what it really is – at its very core and heart – is a group of people who have come together because they want to ensure that every child in America today has a chance to obtain a truly great education. This doesn’t mean that these people – myself included – know all the answers and how to make that happen tomorrow. And to be honest, I’m not sure anyone today in education knows all of those answers. What it does mean is that the people of Teach For America are committed to figuring out how to make an excellent education for every child in the US a reality.

I would argue wholeheartedly that this commitment lives on past the two years of the corps. I’ve worked with 300+ corps members over the past 5 years and of those, many are still in the classroom today and of those who aren’t in the classroom, the great majority are seeking to put their talent to work in bettering our education system. In early September, I received a request from a former corps member asking me to be a reference for a grant proposal she’s writing. She’s designing a program to ensure that high school students transitioning from the juvenile justice system back into a regular high school setting are set up to graduate from high school on time. This example is only one of the many letters that I get each month asking for recommendations from former corps members who are now pursuing Master’s degrees in school administration, literacy instruction, school counseling, or higher education leadership; entry into programs designed to develop the leadership of those seeking leadership in the non-profit sector; and, of course – and most often - teaching roles in public schools.

All of these individuals are good, compassionate people who genuinely want to commit their lives to bettering our education system and want to partner with those outside of Teach For America for our common cause.

Undoubtedly, the most valuable lessons I’ve learned since joining the corps have come from the veteran teachers in my school who had been teaching for 16 or 20 years before I arrived and from the parent volunteers in my classrooms. The women I met at O.R. Pope Elementary continue to influence my day-to-day decisions and thinking. They taught me that we just must commit ourselves to doing “whatever it takes” for our kids – no matter the odds.

So, the next time you read an article or excerpt on Teach For America, think of our people instead of our program.  We are real, committed, full-hearted people who are seeking to put forth our very best effort, thought, and work into making education work for our kids. We don’t know all the answers and are constantly challenging ourselves to improve and figure out how to get better. In fact, this thought process is what we spend much of our time on each week – figuring out how to improve ourselves and our practices for our children.  And at our heart of hearts, we are just a group of people coming together to do whatever it takes to ensure our kids get the education they deserve.

**All of the opinions in this blog are my own.**

influence me!

Whose writing do you love to read? I want to know and I want to know how these folks have influenced your writing and thinking. I’m sure this is the case with anyone who reads and writes a lot, but it  fascinates me to think about how words, phrases, and my general tone is shaped by my favorite writers. Yet, at the end of the day, they’re people I’ve never met and probably will never meet. But they feel like old friends.

Here are my favorite writers, in no particular order:

1. Nora Ephron – Love, love, love her. I first read Heartburn in college after a terrible breakup. Nora’s writing makes me laugh constantly because it’s like all the things that I’m constantly thinking (mind going 100 miles/minute), but don’t say. My favorite part of the book is when the main character, Rachel,  throws a giant key lime pie in the face of her ex-husband. Like, who hasn’t wanted to throw a giant pie in the face of an ex at some point …  Nora’s characters say and do the things that I want to do but am terrified to say / do out loud. Special thanks to my friend Eleanor for introducing me to Ms. Ephron (and the next two writers for that matter).

2. Ruth Reichl – Former food critic for the New York Times and editor for Gourmet magazine, her memoirs are perfect to cozy up in bed with and imagine if I had the money and savvy to visit exotic restaurants and eat foie gras and drink fine wine. While there’s a lot of fanciness, there are also some pretty down-to-earth tales of her family.  Ruth tells stories of her mother throwing dinner parties for 100s of people, cooking stews full of nothing but rotted food,  and half of the guests waking up the next day with food poisoning. When Ruth writes about her family, you can sense a feeling of fierce love  in the midst of undeniable chaos.

She looks so happy. My favorite books are Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me With Apples.

3. Jill Conner Browne of the Sweet Potato Queens -  There’s a trend catching here: I love reading the thoughts of women who aren’t afraid to do what others might call crazy. This was a book that I felt embarrassed to read, but after picking it up and starting, I couldn’t stop. There are also some mischievous recipes in here that call for whole cans of sweetened condensed milk and bags of Butterfingers…

Maybe I will look like one of these ladies when I grow up.

4. David Sedaris - Probably the earliest influence on my writing; I read everything that Sedaris had written in a few weeks when I was in high school. Loved the stories of his family and the generally insane things that seemed to happen in each book. I’d bet money that he could take the most mundane series of events and turn them into comedy. I love his dry sense of humor. My favorite book of his: Me Talk Pretty One Day. 

wings with ranch

**Disclaimer: If you’re joining after reading my last post: I know the bleeding chicken story probably isn’t the most pleasant to read especially if you were expecting to hear about our trip to Kauai and how beautiful it is, etc. etc. Sorry. It is beautiful and it is etc. etc. – but, you know, how can I not tell that story?

This isn't THE chicken. It is one of the 1000s of chickens that we encountered though.

This isn’t THE chicken. It is one of the hundreds of chickens that we encountered, though. Kauai is full of wild chickens and roosters.

Anyway - after the chicken incident on day two, we decided we needed to take it easy for the rest of the morning – recover from the jet lag and from the trauma of seeing death by dog. We headed to the gargantuan pool and slathered ourselves in sunscreen. (A first for me – I usually don’t wear it, but now that I’m 27 I feel like I should worry about skin cancer or aging or generally be more responsible.)

I’d grabbed handfuls of brochures at the airport about all of the adventures available on the island (I was supposed to be watching the bags so Pat could go to the bathroom but I got distracted, as usual) and so I spent the morning trying to decide on which ones we’d undertake. Pat and I decided on a zip-line tour (which I’d begged Pat to do with me and he obliged – sweet husband), a helicopter tour where we got the “first class” seats beside the pilot (last hurrah, remember?), a sunset dinner cruise along the Na Pali Coast, and a kayaking/hiking/swimming in a waterfall combo adventure.  Spare no expense! We were in Hawaii!

That afternoon, we decided to drive to the south shore of the island near Poipu. We had a bangin’ car; and by bangin’, I mean no questions asked, straight up… tacky.  If you ever saw any of the Fast and Furious movies (there have to be at least 56 now), you are well set up to imagine our rental car. It was a blue Ford mustang convertible with leather interior and neon green interior lights. These weren’t just any old neon green lights; they spelled out “MUSTANG” in big block letters along all the floorboards and lit up our feet as we drove around at night.  It was polished to a glaringly bright shine. I hate anything bright or showy (which doesn’t even accurately describe just how showy this car was) – but the rental agent was so excited to assign me the car, I couldn’t help but smile politely and thank her.

Pat made me stand by the car for this photo. My level of coolness clearly doesn't match the car's.

Pat made me stand by the car for this photo. My level of coolness clearly doesn’t match the car’s.

After parking along the side of Poipu Road, , we walked to the beach, weaving our way through the impeccably groomed gardens of a condo complex. The beach was sunny and HOT. There was no wind and we were both dripping in sweat after a few minutes on the beach. Into the water we went. The water is clear and turquoise like you see in the postcards.

The water at Poipu Beach. See - it is really that pretty.

The water at Poipu Beach. See – it is really that pretty.

After a few hours of cycling between laying on the beach, reading, sweating, swimming, drying off, and sunscreening, we decided to head back to the resort for dinner and Mai Tais.

I’ve never had a Mai Tai before (or many rum drinks for that matter), but I’m telling you, these were some de-licious tropical drinks. My favorite part was the pineapple wedge and cherry in each drink. I’d eat them first (and then eat Pat’s because he doesn’t eat fruit – I know, I  know, it’s crazy) and then gulp down every sweet syrupy drop.

**By the way, I can’t not tell you that Pat told my younger brother, Turner, he didn’t eat fruit because he was hit by a runaway fruit stand when he was young and Turner believed this for the next 4 years. We found him last summer telling a group of friends that the reason that Pat doesn’t eat fruit is because of this whole fruit cart incident. Oh yeah, and Turner is 20. Go figure. We Bowmans are a gullible bunch.

Pat's Longboard on the left. My Mai Tai on the right. Mine is better.

Pat’s Longboard on the left. My Mai Tai on the right. Mine is better.

After the sweetness of the Mai Tais, we decided we needed some real food. At Duke’s Canoe Club (the most happening place on Kalapaki Beach according to my trusty Lonely Planet guidebook), I had a Caesar salad that was way too anchovy tasting for my taste and Pat had Korean BBQ tacos. The best part of the night (rivaling the drinks) was the wings we split.

This was my first experience with eating hot wings with ranch dressing. I can’t believe I haven’t tried it until now. I once ate 26 wings in middle school in a wing-eating contest with my friend Biby and I’ve loved wings my whole life and I just now discovered that they are even more delicious with ranch. Not the fat free ranch though. Yick. We got the wings every night we ate at Duke’s and I used more and more ranch each time. Ranch dressing + hot wings = Ramsey is in food heaven. I know it’s not fine dining and the foodie side of me is a bit ashamed, but I’m just saying (one of my sister’s favorite expressions), those wings were good.

After all the sun, wings, Mai Tais, and ranch dressing, our full stomachs and sun-weary bodies gave us no choice but to call it a night. You know you’ve been there. Needless to say, we fell asleep as soon as we got back to the room and didn’t wake up until our alarm went off at 6:00am the next morning for our 6:45am check-in time for the zip-line tour. Don’t ask me how they came up with the time. I’m just saying, that’s what they told us and we obeyed. More to come on that. Stay tuned.

a new do.

I’ve been on quite a respite from my writing. If that’s what you call over a year off – eek. But I’m back. With a new look, a new title, and a new place. Over the past 11 months, Pat and I moved to Florence, South Carolina and changed roles at Teach For America. Other significant accomplishments include:

  • Pat learned to cook (good, too…think shrimp and grits, parmesan encrusted pork chops…)
  • Pat started liking Socrates (even though he won’t admit it)
  • Biscuit started barking a lot. If you know Biscuit of the past, you know this is a small miracle as he used to cower at his own shadow. Yep people, he full out barks all afternoon long in our yard.

The most significant of all of the above accomplishments is definitely Biscuit’s newfound barking ability.

Anyway, I’m writing again. This all started because Pat and I were on vacation last week in Kauai, Hawaii and were sitting by the pool daydreaming about where we’d be and what we’d be doing in five years.

When I think about where I see myself in five years – I want to be a writer. I’m not sure what kind of writer. Not fiction. I’ve never liked writing fiction. But I love other kinds of writing – whether it’s a blog, a journal, projects for work (where bullet point plans are elaborated into full-length narratives), notes at church, letters (the old-fashioned paper ones), online reviews of restaurants and hotels we’ve visited … it doesn’t matter what kind of writing, I love it.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved reading and writing. In second grade, I’d lay belly down in the window seat in my bedroom and spend hours writing stories.  I wanted to write a chapter book. The problem was that I’d get as far as chapter two of each story and get bored and decide to start an entirely new book.  So there are a lot of single chapter chapter books from my elementary school years.  When it came to reading, I’d read anything I could get my hands on as a kid. My favorite outing was when my mom would take me to the library downtown to check out books. I loved the smell of the library – that old, musty, librarary smell. I loved that the bindings of the books were already broken in and I loved the smell of the browning pages. I still love going to the library – even after moving five times in six years, one of the first things I do when I get to a new place is get a library card.

So, my love affair with writing and reading has been a long one.  But if I want to be a serious writer, I guess I should start writing more often. Not for anyone to read necessarily, but just to get into the habit. As a bonus, it also means doing more of something I feel genuine love and happiness from. That’s fun.

What to write about?

Well, we did just get back from Kauai and quite a few interesting things happened while we were there. I’m not sure if I should say, “happened to us” or “we happened to it (the land?)” – regardless, we had fun and adventure.

We stayed at the Marriott Resort on Kalapaki Beach in Lihue. I never done a resort before; in the past, I’ve snubbed my nose at resorts or anything resort-ish and opted for small, quainter inns or bed and breakfasts. But for this vacation, after a year of big transitions for both of us, I said to heck with small and quaint – we’re going all out. Ha. In retrospect, I really do love small and quaint and will probably always be a small and quaint person…but doing the resort experience was worth it this once.

The pool was pretty spectacular. It was at least 56 times the size of any pool I’ve been in before – okay, well maybe not 56, but it was really, really big. The pool and the Mai Tais we drank by the pool were the highlight of the resort.  And – miracle of miracles – they had the first coffee that I’ve genuinely enjoyed (ever) at a hotel. And it was grown on the island. Fancy.

What wasn’t the highlight of the resort was the initial room they placed us in. We’d booked an “ocean view” room. Be wary of what “ocean view” can mean for a resort – for us, it meant bottom floor with a giant view of the bushes with a sliver of the ocean in sight if you looked at just the right angle standing on the far right hand side of the room.  We requested to be moved to a higher floor and the man at the hotel front desk said he’d work on it for the second day of our trip. I know this is an embarrassingly accurate example of a first world problem, but this was supposed to be our last hurrah and we were going to have it even if I had to sweet talk (e.g. bully) the hotel staff.

So, on the promised second day (we were supposed to get a call at 8am letting us know if they could change the room or not), I opened up the shades and got myself in the angled position to see the ocean and – squawk squawk squawk – a chicken frantically runs into the glass door with a bang and is followed by a dog. The dog bites the chicken – feathers flying, blood spurting, and squawking commencing and I shriek, “Pat! Pat! Pat!!!! Ahhh … a chicken is being murdered on our patio. Do something!” Pat, not phased by blood or dead chickens (numbed from the site of blood from all the zombie shows he watches), walks unhurriedly to the door, yells “Scat!” to the dog and the dog runs off. Leaving a bleeding, dying chicken on our patio.

And if they weren’t going to move our room already – surely this had to have supplied extra ammunition for a room change. We called the front desk and requested that someone come to clean up the dead chicken, blood, and feathers. Yes it was odd. And yes, a cheerful man came and cleaned it up. We left for breakfast. Looking back, I’m surprised we were hungry. But, then again, we’re always hungry.

Needless to say, our room was changed and we had a much better view and no chickens or dogs or animals of any kind.

Oh, and by the way, breakfast was delish. We had malasadas (a Portugese confection of sugar coated, fried-dough perfection ). More to come soon on our Kauai adventures. Until next time, thanks for rejoining me friends, I missed you.

Leonard's_malasadas

thankful

Today, and this week, I’ve just felt overwhelmed with gratitude.

  • For friends who make me feel loved. Rachel.  Mary. Catie. My amazing sis. Ms. Coley. Amanda. Ms. Evans. Ms. Scott. My bro, Phristy Bowman (“Dad, I’m PHRRR-ISTY”). Graham. Rebecca. Eleanor.  THANK YOU.
  • For my sweet, sweet students whose faces lit up when I saw them today. And yes, Torian (who picked me up during my first year teaching), was one of those students.  I just want to take them with me wherever I go; or move back to Pope?! Those kids have changed my heart forever.

  • For my husband who makes me laugh ALL the time. Who goes for runs in the rain with me. Who supports me no matter what. And who is learning to be a pretty amazing cook.

  • For spending the past 5 years in Eastern North Carolina and meeting so many amazing people who have so changed my life. I thought I joined Teach For America to teach things, but I realized I actually joined to learn about love and people and place and community.
  • For the wonderful teachers I work with who love and care so much about their students. Teaching is so hard and I feel lucky to be surrounded by people so dedicated to seeing their little ones succeed.
  • For sunny days.

  • For music that makes me feel happy no matter what. (Currently listening to Beyonce’s “Love On Top”.)
  • For getting to hang out with the coolest 9th grader for a couple hours every week (love Leesly!!!).
  • For white wine. Yum.
  • And, of course, for the best parents a gal could ask for. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

Heart is full of love. Heart is happy.

So happy.

 

more amanda cox in my life, please.

I was lucky enough to share a pizza with my dear friend Amanda last night.

She makes me laugh a lot.

When we were teaching together in Rocky Mount, we spent many an evening daydreaming about going to Durham to eat Mellow Mushroom pizza. (Oh, the little things we missed when we first lived in Rocky Mount.) Last night, Amanda was in town from Boston and we happily split a Hawaiian pizza (at Mellow Mushroom of course) and talked about what’s next in life.

So many choices! It’s hard… after finishing the corps (a two-year commitment), it somehow leaves you with the feeling that perhaps every year, or two years, it’s time for a change again. And I can’t say that feeling is bad because change is good; it means growth and learning and new life. At the same time, change is hard and it’s hard to always know what part of our lives we’re supposed to change. What are we supposed to do? Where are we supposed to be?

In both Amanda’s case and my own, we’ve collectively moved 7 times in 5 years, held 4 different jobs, gone to grad school once (Amanda), and moved across the country for summer jobs 4 times. This is all in 5 years. Oh, and I got married. And got a dog and a cat. And after all that busyness and moving, a giant part of me screams, “ENOUGH!” Whereas another giant part of me screams, “You’re 26! This is what you’re supposed to be doing! Where are you going to move next? Go see the world!”

So, that’s the dilemma Amanda and I were stuck on as we munched our pizza last night. I’m not sure what to do next, neither is Amanda. We considered the idea of regressing.

What if we both reversed our lives 5 years, moved back to Rocky Mount, taught 2nd and 3rd grade at D.S. Johnson and O.R. Pope, went to San Jose everyday at 3:45pm afterschool to “eat dinner” and talk about how we stood in one place all afternoon, trying to figure out what to do as our children ran circles around us? I’d get to see a whole lot more of Amanda which would make me happy. And I’d get to see and hang out with sweet children everyday.

And, I’d finally get to justify that sticker on my computer that says, “Ask me why I love Rocky Mount.” (I get asked this question at least three times a day to which I always give a different response…my most recent response was, “Because they have a K&W Cafeteria.”)

K&W has the best chicken and dumplings ever. And soft rolls. And jello.

Oh yeah, that’s the last point, if we regressed, we’d get to eat all the K&W, San Jose, El Tapatio, and CookOut we wanted. Such a tough decision. Especially when I think about those peanut butter banana CookOut milkshakes.

mimi

Today I have thought so much about Mimi. As I sat waiting for coffee to brew, I flipped through an edition of the Everyday Food magazine. Mimi gave me a subscription when I lived in Rocky Mount several years ago; then, after she died, Mom let me take all of Mimi’s old editions of Everyday Food home with me. I love the magazines from Mimi’s house. She’d used little post-it notes to mark the recipes she’d wanted to try. I’ve left them intact because it makes me feel like I have a bit of Mimi with me when I try the recipes I know she’d intended to make one day.

I remember in the last years before she died, one of my favorite things to do when I visited her in Charlotte was to climb up on her bed, get under her cozy flowered quilt, snuggle up close, and look through magazines to daydream about delicious meals we’d like to cook. We’d sit for hours and ogle over mouth-watering photographs of pork tenderloin roasted with apples and Vidalia onions, spinach and grape tomatoes sautéed in olive oil, buttermilk mashed potatoes, honey-glazed carrots, or homemade Parmesan cheese straws.

In between recipes, she’d ask me about life and work and family. She always thought I was being too hard on myself (which I know I am much of the time) and was always a little worried about me. She thought I deserved the absolute best and nothing less. She was proud of me, even when I felt like there was nothing to be proud of. She’d always interrogate me about any men in my life—she was determined that I was to be treated like a princess. When Pat came along, she was suspicious at first (as she was with every other man I dated), but grew to love him as she saw how happy he made me.  She would accept nothing less than the best for her granddaughter.

Mimi died in July 2010 and I miss her terribly. She loved me so well. She was undoubtedly one of my biggest fans and advocates. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned how hard it can be to advocate for yourself and I find myself desperately missing Mimi’s pleas with me to work just a little bit less, to visit my family more, and to eat more apple fritters (her favorite!). I miss trips to the beach with Mimi when we’d take long walks in the mornings to comb the beach for shells and go to the Pawleys Island Hammock Shops in the afternoon. I miss those delicious oatmeal raisin cookies she always had from the Harris Teeter on Park Road. I just miss her so much.

So, in honor of my Mimi and those days when we used to cuddle up in her bed to look through page after page of recipes, here’s a recipe she’d marked in an Everyday Food from November 2008. I’m not sure if she ever had a chance to make this, but this week, I’m going to make a loaf and remember my Mimi.

Fresh Cranberry Bread

Serves 8

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total time: 1 ½ hours plus time for cooling

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan

2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan

1 cup packed light-brown sugar

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 large egg, lightly beaten

¾ cup whole milk

1 bag (12 ounces) cranberries

1 tablespoon turbinado sugar, for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; butter and flour a 9-by-5 inch loaf plan and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine butter, egg, and milk. Add wet mixture to dry mixture, and whisk to combine; fold in cranberries.

Pour batter into prepared pan; sprinkle top with turbinado sugar, if desired. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let bread cool 30 minutes. Invert onto rack, then immediately turn right side up to let cool completely.

will running when I’m sick make me sicker? the question of the hour.

What do you think about running when you’re sick? Will I die?

I’ve been sick all week. It’s no fun. P.S. If you’re sick, you should go to the doctor. They might give you some antibiotics and these might make you feel better.

Now that I’ve been on my fancy azithromycin pills for 4 days, I want to run!

But, what if I get a whooping cough? Or pneumonia? Or double pnuemonia in both lungs? Or an ear infection? Or sinusitis? What if my body collapses on the road from exhaustion and I get eaten by deer? Or by the beagle that lives next door?

Hopefully these things won’t happen. I’m just a little bored and feel like I’m going to blow my brains out. And I’m irrational. That’s why I want to go running with an upper respiratory infection.  It’s okay. Don’t worry, I’ll take some Robitussin before I go.

Biscuit says I should run.

top ten things we take a little too seriously

10. The weather. It comes on the news like every 5 minutes. It’s the chosen topic of conversation at awkward holiday parties where you don’t know anyone. Why is this? This doesn’t make sense because the weather is just not that interesting. And…I won’t go outside without first checking the forecast online. This is silly. I should just go outside and take a jacket.

9. Coffee. Register at Mint.com and see how much money you spend on fancy (cough, cough Starbucks) coffee each month. I did this and it was not pretty. When Hurricane Irene came in September, I drove around for 3.5 hours post-hurricane, looking for a business that was open and making coffee. Putting my life in danger for a bit of bitter-flavored caffeine drink is not okay.

Yep, I make my coffee at home now.

8. Our schedules. Heaven forbid my schedule is thrown off.  My entire day is strictly regimented: I wake up at 6, check my email and eat breakfast at 6:15, run at 6:30, take a shower at 7am, check my email at 7:20am, and on and on. If my schedule is thrown off at all, it’s like my whole day is ruined. I am a little crazy about schedules and I get the feeling many of us have this problem. What if we just let our schedules take a break for a day and let ourselves relax a little bit? I am going to do this on Saturday. Promise. You promise to, too.

7. The Bachelor and the Bachelorette TV shows. Maybe this one is just me. But I am obsessed with this show. That crazy girl Vienna got me hooked three years ago and I’ve been addicted ever since. If Ashley and JP break up, it will feel way too personal.

6. Healthy eating. I get so exhausted by thinking about all the vitamins, antioxidants, organic, non-junk food stuff that I’m supposed to be eating. I just saw a 10 minute clip on the news about how we should all stop eating cereal. Ahhh. I’m just saying—I don’t think eating sugary cereal for breakfast is going to kill me. Lucky Charms are so colorful and bright. They might have a lot of sugar, but they put me in such a good mood when I start my day with their bright marshmallowly goodness. It seems like all the stress we cause ourselves by trying to eat so healthy is going to be the real culprit behind later stress-induced health problems.

5. Work (and ourselves). I was sick this week with a deathly cough and fever. While it probably should have been my first impulse to stay home and get better, it took way too much convincing on Pat’s part. Everyone’s world is not going to stop turning if I stay home when I’m sick. I need to take myself a bit less seriously.

4. Black Friday shopping. People pepper sprayed each other this year. What in the world? Do we all really need big screen TVs so badly that we’d take a can of pepper spray to someone’s face? I just don’t get it. There are good sales, but if we have to risk our safety to go to the outlet malls, it seems like there’s something wrong with this picture.

3. Facebook. I check it like 500 times a day. Half the people that pop up on my newsfeed I haven’t talked to in like 5 years. You’d think that would stop my obsession, but it doesn’t. If there was a Facebook Anonymous support group, I maybe should join. Just think, if we turned off the Facebook website for a week—how much time would we get back?

2. The Kardashians. If I read, see, or hear one more story about Kim and her weight gain (she’s pregnant, of course she’s gaining weight), I’m going to gag. Or Kourtney and Scott; or Khloe doing whatever. Enough. I’m not sure how the Kardashian craze started, but it is too much. Of course I never, ever watch any of the shows…

1. Email. I check my email incessantly. I was writing emails at 5am yesterday. I checked my email at least 15 times on Thanksgiving. That’s 15 too many times. The world is not going to end if we don’t check email every 10 minutes. (I know you’re probably multi-tasking and checking your email right now. Stop.)